Chavez Ravine is one of the most original and heartfelt records master musician/cultural catalyst Ry Cooder has ever released. It also signals his ambivalent, complex re-entry into U.S. culture after spending most of the '90s resurrecting pre-Castro Cuban music in the Buena Vista Social Club and its numerous spinoffs.
Chavez Ravine is Cooder's attempt to deconstruct and reconstruct a Latino neighborhood in Los Angeles that the city razed in the early '50s to make way for Dodger Stadium. Infused with news bites from the period highlighting the Red Scare and UFOs, the disc is colored by contributions from such legendary L.A. musicians as Thee Midniters' Little Willie G. and the last recording of Don Tosti, creator of the zoot-suited Pachuco sound. (Tosti died last August.)
Some tracks are disturbing, many are sad, some rock hard -- particularly the sly "Muy Fifi" and "Chinito Chinito," the churning recreation of a single Tosti recorded in 1949. Like In the Shadow of No Towers, Art Spiegelman's brilliant graphic novel about 9-11, history and commentary swirl here, creating a unique brew. May Cooder continue to mix past and present into even more stirring homages.